Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh HatshepsutDeir el Bahri - Theban Mortuary Temples - T vs MT - Thebes - The Places
Djeser-Djeseru, The Sublime of the Sublimes, Holy of Holiests
Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s Mansions of Millions of Years
Where: Located at Deir el Bahri, on the Western Bank of the River Nile, in Thebes. The Mortuary sits in a natural amphitheatre, hewn out of the rock, with its neighbour Mortuary Temples for Pharaoh Mentuhotep II and Pharaoh Tuthmose III. Click here to visit the Mortuary Temple for Pharaoh Mentuhotep II. Click here to visit the Mortuary Temple for Pharaoh Tuthmose III. The Temple sits on top of the now ruined and lost Temple of Great Royal Wife Ahmose Meritamen, which was built for her by her husband, Pharaoh Amenhotep I. Pharaoh Hatshepsut had this Temples decommissioned to allow room for her own.
When: Commissioned, hewn and erected during the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt and finished before Pharaoh’s death
Who: Designed and built by High Steward and Architect Senenmut on behalf of Pharaoh Hatshepsut. For more details about Senenmut, click here. To discover the Tombs, yes there is more than one, that Senenmut constructed for himself, click here.
Why: Designed to serve as part of Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Complex that would keep her Cult alive after her death. To learn more about the Mortuary Temple’s Cult click here. It was known as her Northern Sanctuary, while her Southern Sanctuary was her Sacred Barque Shrine or Temple which was added to and became Luxor Temple. Even the original name for Luxor Temple reflects this, “Ipet Resut” literally the Southern Sanctuary. Both locations were places for the Theban Triad to visit during the Ancient Festivals of rejuvenation and renewal.
What: Created as part of Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Complex and dedicated to the God Amun, the Temple is referred to as a Garden for her Father Amun. It is considered today to be one of the finest remaining examples in Egypt. To learn more about Mortuary Temple’s and their Complexes, click here.
The Whole Mortuary Complex
The Mortuary Complex leads from Karnak Temple’s Nile entrance in a straight line into the Mortuary Temple’s Inner Sanctum.
Originally Egyptologists understand that from the dock on the western bank of the Nile, Pharaoh’s very wide Causeway would have guided you up all the way through the Valley to the entrance Pylon of the Mortuary Temple. This entrance would have been flanked by Obelisks, similar to those at Luxor Temple. The Causeway would have been lined with Trees, thought to be similar to those inside the Temple itself which were from Punt, interspersed with Sphinx.
All of these additions to the Temple itself which would have made Pharaoh’s Complex have been wiped out and no proper traces of any part have been found as they have had their stones robbed away and the footings destroyed by other monuments.
The Mortuary Temple: Architecture
Architect Senenmut may well have taken inspiration in his design of Pharaoh’s Mortuary Temple from the one next door, that of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II.
With 3 Terraces entered via long, gently ascending ramps which were decorated with a plethora of foreign tree and shrubs (such as frankincense and myrrh trees), the traditional Halls being replaced with Columned Colonnades, leading at its conclusion to the Chapels and Sanctuary; the Mortuary Temple held all of the classic Theban Mortuary Temples, but was packaged according to its surrounding natural architecture, with a nod to its immediate neighbour.
The Mortuary Temple reaches a height of 30 meters in total and is in perfect alignment with Karnak Temple – see my drawn map above. But Architect Senenmut did not only align the Temple to match Karnak. The Mortuary Temple’s Chapel aligns exactly to where the sun rises on 21st or 22nd December, the Winter Solstice.
To add to this effect, there are 2 light boxes:
The first box allows a block of sunlight to move from the central axis of the Mortuary Temple to illuminate a Reliefs of the God Amun onto Pharaoh Tuthmose III and onto the God of the Nile, Hapi.
The Second light box allows a further effect to begin 41 days before the Solstice and continue afterwards for a further 41 days. The box obliges the sun’s rays to reach the Innermost Chamber. The last day that the Sunlight reaches inside the Inner Chamber marks the date on which Pharaoh Hatshepsut was enthroned as a Pharaoh, 1st of February.
Lastly, during the Autumn equinox the Beautiful Festival of the Valley would occur, often later combined with the Opet Festival, during which the Sacred Barques of the Theban Triad would be brought to the Mortuary Temple.
This explains why Pharaoh’s successor, her stepson Pharaoh Tuthmose III, built his own Mortuary Temple above Hatshepsut’s and tried to literally eclipse her Temple during the Festivals. To learn more about this, click here.
All of this when combined with the Star Map found in Architect Senenmut’s Deir el Bahri based Tomb, TT353, it would seem to conclude that Senenmut was knowledgeable about the stars and was an accomplished Astronomer. To see Egypt’s earliest known Star Map in Senenmut’s Tomb, click here.
Pharaoh Tuthmose III or his Crown Prince and successor, and Pharaoh Akhenaten caused considerable damage to the Mortuary Temple of Pharaoh Hatshepsut after her death.
Previous thinking had been that towards the end of Pharaoh Tuthmose III’s reign he made an attempt to removal all highly visible signs of Hatshepsut’s rule as a Pharaoh, defacing Monuments, removing Statues and removing her name from the King’s List. But why did he wait until nearly the end of his long reign to begin this project seems to be to do with his own line of succession, his son, heir and Crown Prince, and nothing to do with his predecessor personally.
Pharaoh Akhenaten’s motives are more straightforward. He wanted all tributes to Deities other than his God, the Aten, destroyed. This distinctive building, never really stood a chance!
During Christian Coptic times a Christian Monastery was added to the site.
Thanks to Egyptologists huge amounts of work have been done to preserve what remains.